Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Narrator: Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-esue-02-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

JA: What were the "loyalty questions"?

SE: Well, I guess after the riot at Manzanar and there were disturbances in Poston and Tule Lake also, the government decided that they needed to separate the -- what they called the so-called disloyal from the loyal, and also to reinstate the status of the young men from 4-C, which meant "enemy alien," to 1-A, and then recruit them to fight in a segregated unit overseas. And that was pushed by the Japanese American Citizens League: "If you want to prove your loyalty, you might as well go fight," and they were instrumental in getting the army to change the status of these young men. So they used this "loyalty oath questionnaire," it was sort of based on the questionnaire that they give to young men who go into the, who are inducted into the armed services. So it was a very strange thing to give to people, like those of us in the camp. Question 27 asked if, I think, if you would forswear allegiance to the Japanese emperor, and question 28 asked if you would be willing to fight for the United States wherever you are called to serve. It ended up that there were different categories. You could answer 'yes-yes' to the questionnaire, or 'yes-no,' or 'no-no,' or 'no-yes.' It caused a lot of confusion among the Issei who were not citizens, because they were asked to forswear allegiance to the Japanese emperor and that meant that they would lose their Japanese citizenship if they did that, and that they would be people without a country because they couldn't become American citizens. So then they changed that question for them so they could answer it without feeling threatened about their citizenship. I think they were... the government was really surprised when so few people actually volunteered. But it was a year after we had been in camp. We had been confined for over a year. We had lost everything, and then they're asking the young men to turn around and go into the service, and I think many of them felt that they just couldn't do that. They were willing to serve if they could -- if they would release their parents, you know, out of the camp. And in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, they had about eighty-seven young men who refused to go when they were called for induction.


SE: There was a "loyalty oath questionnaire" which was distributed in all the ten camps. Question 27 asked if we would, I guess, male or female over eighteen, would serve in the armed forces of the United States and go wherever ordered. Question 28 asked us to disallow any loyalty to the emperor of Japan, and that question was very hard for people to answer because most of us had no connection with the emperor of Japan. Very few of us had gone to Japan and had any contact with relatives. Question 27 was hard for young men to answer because -- or women also, because we had been in camp for a year, confined within the one-mile square, not having any charges laid against us and certainly no trial or the use of an attorney to fight our cases. It caused quite a big division within all of the camps. I'm not sure about Manzanar, but there are other camps where the young men refused to go for induction when they were called. A lot of them objected to be having a separate segregated unit fighting, you know, in the armed forces. And of course many of them wanted to serve in other areas like the air force, the marines, or the navy and they couldn't do that. So it was also a cause for much tension between the parent generation and the young people, because then the parents decided they want to go back to Japan and ask for repatriation. The children were American citizens and they certainly didn't want to go with the parents. If they were minors under eighteen, they had no choice, and many of them did end up in Japan. I know my mother was pressured by all the neighbors to repatriate. By this time all of us were gone, my three brothers were in the service, I was in Chicago, and she said, "Nobody wants to go with me, so why, how can I go and live there by myself? My kids won't go with me." So she stayed, but she was under a lot of pressure by a lot of people to go back.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.